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Beyond The Book


Over the last decade the pending death of books has been much ballyhooed (yes, I have now used ballyhoo in a sentence and gain six additional experience points!). I certainly don’t subscribe to this prophecy, not with more and better books being written than ever before, but the business of writing and publishing is changing. And never has the art of storytelling been more important.

We are always telling stories. Whether it’s to a friend, a teacher, a potential employer, on Facebook/Instagram/Tumblr or even in 140 character blocks on Twitter, we are always storytelling. Every advertisement is an attempt by the advertiser to engage us in a brand’s story, every politician’s speech is a tool used to convince us to vote or support her. Stories are everywhere. And you need not limit the scope of your book to the page, electronic or otherwise.


Because your audience is everywhere. In a world in which 80% of people watch TV with a second screen (phone, tablet, computer), your readers are ready to go where ever you’re willing to take them.

Example of storyverse.

A story that takes place on multiple platforms uses something called Transmedia. Transmedia is your storyworld. A TV show like Heroes had accompanying webisodes and graphic novels. Mad Men had characters that tweeted. Video games like Assassin’s Creed go well beyond the screen into many other formats and I don’t mean just action figures. The fictional universe of these stories is enriched by stories that extend past the anchor property of show/book/film/game. Augmented Reality Games have live performance components. Scholastic’s 39 Clues has a massive online presence with cards, forums, games, and an agent handbook. Publishers and producers do this to engage their audience and to create a richer storyworld. Not all fans will seek out this content, but the ones that do are some of your most ardent and will make your next book a bestseller.

When I developed my Assured Destruction series I did it with Transmedia in mind. Each key character has a graphic novel back story. The company in the series has a real website. The main character has a blog, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook account. At one time the virtual characters responded to you on Twitter. There are secrets codes that will take you to a secret website. And the crowdfunding campaign in the third book also happened in real life. Here is the storyworld for the trilogy:

It was a lot of work, but in creating it, I really got to know all of my characters. By extending their lives I added a huge amount of depth that was poured back into the books. These weren’t only characters in a book, they were real! And that helped the series and I think it’s why readers have engaged well with the characters too.

Now my readers can discover my books not just by ads or word of mouth, but by stumbling across them on other platforms and slowly coming to the realization that this funny person they’re talking to isn’t a person at all, and that they’ve been sucked into a story without ever having opened the book. And that is the power of storytelling in our new media world.

As you embark on your book, consider the Transmedia elements that can enrich your story and garner new readers.

P.S. Below is an example of one of the graphic origin stories of a character in Assured Destruction.

Example of graphic origin story

ATTENTION: The submission window for critiques is open! If you’d like your work critiqued, please submit no more than 2 pages (double spaced, 12 point font) via email to

Michael Stewart is OPL’s  first official writer in residence for teens and tweens. Michael likes to experiment by combining social media with storytelling. He's both traditionally published and indie published. He writes middle grade through to adult novels, graphic novels and new media projects across many genres.